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  1. #1
    r8rh8rmike's Avatar
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    Shurmur Gets The Most Out Of Rams' Offense

    Shurmur gets the most out of Rams' offense

    BY BERNIE MIKLASZ
    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Other than Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, I don't think any manager or coach in St. Louis takes more heat than Pat Shurmur. The Rams' offensive coordinator rarely seems to be on the popular side of public opinion.

    I've gotten on him for, among other things, failing to adjust the game plan in the second half. And for being reluctant to call enough down-field passes. And for trying to play it too safe when the Rams have a lead. Usually these acerbic critiques come after the Rams have lost a frustrating game. The second-half breakdowns at Oakland and Tampa Bay come to mind.

    During calmer moments, I appreciate Shurmur. I'll be honest: I think I was slow to come to understand his wisdom and philosophy with this particular offensive cast. And that's my fault.

    This does not mean that we agree with all of his choices. I think Shurmur could be more creative. We'll get into some of that later.

    But allow me to try and explain why I've come to respect Shurmur's work.

    The Rams don't have an explosive offense. We can have fits of distemper and holler for deep passes and a tricked-up game plan. But what, exactly, would be accomplished if Shurmur tried to go with a vertical offense? It would be stupid. And harmful. The Rams don't have the receivers to play home-run derby. They lack the element of danger.

    Shurmur has referred to what he does as 'small ball ... lots of bunts and singles." And absolutely he's right. The Rams average 9.79 yards per completed pass. That's last (32nd) in the NFL. According to STATS LLC, the Rams' average number of yards at the point of the reception what the receiver does after making the catch isn't included is only 4.4 yards, which ranks 31st. Translation: lots of short passes.

    But if this is small ball, the Rams are doing a fine job of executing it.

    And there is true value in this approach.

    No. 1, Shurmur is keeping rookie quarterback Sam Bradford out of harm's way most of the time. Only 5.5 percent of the Rams' attempts to pass end in a sack. That's among the lowest sack rates in the NFL this season. That's also the lowest sack rate by a Rams offense since the team moved to St. Louis in 1995. Reducing sacks not only minimizes the number of hits on Bradford, it also helps the Rams avoid drive-killing negative plays. A passing game that gets rid of the ball quickly also gives young offensive tackles Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith a chance to develop under more reasonable circumstances. Saffold and Smith have allowed only three sacks (combined) this season.

    No. 2, Bradford is developing a rhythm and confidence in the West Coast offense. This has been a superb experience for Bradford to learn how to master the shorter pass routes that form the foundation of the West Coast offense. Bradford has put his surprisingly deft mobility into action with rollout passes. Bradford has distributed the ball to many receivers; even if the passes are short, it helps to keep the defense off guard about knowing where the ball will go. Establishing the discipline required to run this offense is a valuable component to a quarterback's development. Bradford is nailing down the fundamentals; he'll be more prepared to take the St. Louis passing game to the next level in 2011.

    No. 3, the Shurmur concept of going methodical is setting the Rams up on some long and fruitful scoring drives. They rank seventh in the NFL in 10-play drives. They're 11th in the league in points produced (50) from 10-play scoring drives. They are tied for ninth for the largest number of possessions that last five minutes or longer. Their average scoring drive lasts 8.8 plays and 3 minutes, 57 seconds; only four NFL teams are going on longer marches to secure points.

    Bradford is a crucial factor in the success. He's been special on third-down plays, keeping drives going with timely completions. Bradford has connected on 60 percent of his third-down throws. He has six touchdowns and no interceptions on third down. Bradford's third-down passer rating of 101.2 is the league's sixth best. And the Rams are 11th in the NFL in converting third downs.

    And we have to give Shurmur some of the credit. Along with QB coach Dick Curl, Shurmur has done an excellent job of preparing Bradford for the myriad of blitzes and looks on defense. I won't run from my previous words; I had major concerns about Curl. But he's been good for Bradford, just as head coach Steve Spagnuolo insisted. I was wrong.

    Because the Rams are so stubborn about keeping the ball, they rank sixth in the NFL in time of possession. The Rams are keeping impressive company; the only teams that control the ball more are the NY Giants, San Diego, New Orleans, Atlanta and Baltimore. And by hogging the ball, the Rams are keeping their frisky defense rested and fresh. That's a plus.

    And these deliberate drives do have a destination and a point. The Rams are getting in position to score, probably more than we realize. They've had 30 red-zone series this season (inside the other team's 20-yard line.) Only New Orleans, San Diego, Oakland, New England and the NY Giants have set up more times than the Rams in the red zone.

    The problem? Cashing in. The Rams have scored only 11 touchdowns in 30 red-zone opportunities; that TD percentage of 36.7 percent ranks 30th in the league. The major flaws are sacks allowed in the red zone (five) and the inability to run it in the RZ.

    And that's an area where Shurmur must be more creative. Shurmur also has to find more ways to keep the offense moving in the second half. That's been another issue. The Rams rank ninth in the NFL in first-half yards and 15th in first-half points. In the second half, they rank 30th in yards and 31st in points. Shurmur certainly has it in him to implement fresh ideas in the latter stages of games. But the Rams can't stand still in the second half. They can't be predictable. They need to add some second-half flourishes.

    Other thoughts: The Rams have had too many negative first-down plays. I don't know why. But Bradford has five interceptions on first down. And the Rams rank 28th in their average per rush (3.9 yards) on first down. That must change. And yes, I'd still like to see the Rams take more shots down field, just to make the defense think about the possibility.

    But I did not come here to talk about the Pat "Murmur" offense. Pat Shurmur deserves praise. He's taken stock of the available talent, and he's making the best of it. The reality is, the Rams have little choice but to play small ball until they can expand their talent and dimensions. Shurmur figured that out a lot sooner than his critics. Including this one.


  2. #2
    Flippin' Ram's Avatar
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    Re: Shurmur Gets The Most Out Of Rams' Offense

    Keep it coming Bernie, I'm actually looking forward to reading your articles now.. wait whaa?
    Just don't screw up or you'll be seeing an angry mob holding pitchforks and torches in front of your house to run you outta town.

  3. #3
    fearsome foursome is online now Registered User
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    Re: Shurmur Gets The Most Out Of Rams' Offense

    I think that the coaching staff has put an emphasis on keeping Bradfird 'clean'. They keep tight ends in to block(fewer receivers in the pattern) and more short quick passes. Maybe this will keep Bradford from getting 'battered quarterback syndrome'. As he learns to read more defensive schemes they should start to cut him loose.

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    Re: Shurmur Gets The Most Out Of Rams' Offense

    I understand that the Rams have a conservative offense with the lack of downfield threats. I do question their use of Jackson at times. He is a very talented receiving threat out of the backfield. This year, he is on pace for 34 receptions. That would be the lowest number of receptions since his rookie year. It confuses me when he is not utilized more with our focus on the short passing game.

    Shurmur also seems to call for a good deal of pass plays inside the 5 yard line. Bernie says that the Rams have had trouble running inside the red zone. In my mind, it is often due to the fact that they simply don't try. I know that Bradford appears to be a very talented quarterback that the Rams can build around. However, Shurmur seems to call pass plays on downs that call for a top-tier running back. They seem to simply want to showcase Bradford as opposed to utilize their best weapon in certain situations.

    I'm certainly not bashing Shurmur. These are small critiques in what has been a great start to the season. I don't think that anyone saw the Rams having a shot at the playoffs this year. You won't be able to criticize any of the Rams coaching staff if they actually win the NFC West. :-)

  5. #5
    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: Shurmur Gets The Most Out Of Rams' Offense

    A couple of things I would like to see.

    1. Use Jackson more in the passing game

    2. Our receivers need to break a few tackles and improve with the YAC.

    GO RAMS!!!

  6. #6
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    Re: Shurmur Gets The Most Out Of Rams' Offense

    Quote Originally Posted by laram0 View Post
    A couple of things I would like to see.

    1. Use Jackson more in the passing game

    2. Our receivers need to break a few tackles and improve with the YAC.

    GO RAMS!!!
    Our receivers have 928 YAC, good for 9th in the league ...

    Jackson's receptions should go up eventually, but not until Shurmur begins spreading the WR's and TE's out. Jackson's value as a checkdown is limited in this quick fire, short pass offense ...

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    Azul e Oro is online now Registered User
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    Re: Shurmur Gets The Most Out Of Rams' Offense

    I think losing both Uh-Oh and Bajema for most of the season so far had a lot to do with SJ's limited catches. He had to help out the young OTs and Sam in pass pro a lot more. 8 catches in the first two games then 9 in the last six put together. Darcy J was awful & Fells slowed by a dinged knee. So much for a QB's best friend. I do wish they'd used Darby more, though.Pretty much every time that guy gets more than 4-5 touches, something good seems to happen.And I don't think it's coincidence that The Rams two best,imo, offensive performances(vs SD & CAR) featured big contributions by TEs.

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    richtree's Avatar
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    Re: Shurmur Gets The Most Out Of Rams' Offense

    I think every part of our team has over-achieved except our offense. Granted we don't have great skill players but our offense isn't doing so good.

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    Re: Shurmur Gets The Most Out Of Rams' Offense

    I think Shurmur recieved most of his criticism for the teams second half performance, not his playcalling in general. I saw some improvement in Carolina and I am starting to like what I see. I think the health factor is going to be key this week and a big plus for us and Shurmur's playcalling.

  10. #10
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    Re: Shurmur Gets The Most Out Of Rams' Offense

    There is much more offensive improvement than meets the eye. Unfortunately, most are only happy with bottom line results. The points and yards will catch up eventually ...

  11. #11
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    Re: Shurmur Gets The Most Out Of Rams' Offense

    Wait did Pat just admit twice in one article that he was wrong? This article needs to be stickied for future reference. That and he's actually right now that's he's not writing emotionally. If anyone thinks we should be slinging the ball around more downfield with the receivers we've got, they're crazy.

    Oh and for those who don't get the Pat reference, it's referring to the fact that Bernie could be Pat's (from SNL's "It's Pat" skits) doppelganger.


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